Tag Archives: #wotw

Testing the boundaries


It seems our easy-going, gentle, kind, baby boy is morphing into someone different. Terrible twos, I guess: though being only one month into that third year I’m reluctant to just resign myself to that.

It’s been building for a while. His independent streak is getting ever stronger, and though he doesn’t ask the questions I can feel them buzzing around his head.

Why is it ok to hit a drum with sticks but not a person? Why do you praise me when I throw a ball at you, but flinch when I throw a train? Or food for that matter. Or even, as we had this week, a glass bottle – which by some physics-defying miracle didn’t break when it hit the slate floor. 

Why is it funny when I splash water in the bath, but not when I soak myself at dinner time? Why do you encourage me to draw on paper, but take the crayons away when I draw on the wall?  Why do you clap when I jump on to the mats at gym but gasp when I throw myself from the sofa to the wooden floor?

For myself, I’m trying to find ways to explain. To teach him which behaviour is acceptable and which is not. I am not afraid to tell him no, but I want to do it quietly and calmly rather than being the one who shouts. I want to set boundaries, but I don’t want to hammer them into him through naughty steps and time outs. We’ve come so far with our attached and baby-led approach, and I am loathe to throw that all away for quick fixes and easy wins.

But we’ve had a couple of horrid incidents recently, where he has hit and bit and hurt his friends. He hasn’t meant to I don’t think: he hasn’t seemed angry or malicious. When faced with the tears and indignation of his victims he has crumbled himself, afraid and confused. But that doesn’t change the fact it’s happened, that he’s behaved badly and someone else has got hurt.

Right now I’m pretty clear on what I don’t want to do to tackle this, but I’m still scrabbling around for the alternatives.

How do I show my son I respect him, whilst letting him know that some of his behaviours are simply not acceptable? How do I help him develop his curiosity whilst making sure he doesn’t hurt himself or others in the process? How do I hold my nerve and follow the path I believe is right when I can feel myself being judged by my friends and family for not doing what they think I should?

I realise there are a lot of questions here. And it’s not like I’m an amateur in dealing with challenging behaviour: ten years working with teenagers has taught me a lot. But suddenly, now, I feel like I know nothing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: on what has worked for you, and what has not. On how to gently ease a toddler into a social world without destroying his confidence or individuality.

I guess as much as Arthur’s testing his boundaries I’m discovering my own as well. I hope it won’t be too long before we get this next phase of things figured out.

Our word of the week this week is boundaries.

The Reading Residence

Word of the week: cold


I’ve been struggling a bit with my first cold of the season this week: a sniffling, lethargy-inducing, lingering cold, not enough to really stop me doing anything but certainly enough to make it all that bit more difficult. But that’s not actually what this post is about.

What I’ve really noticed this week is just how cold it’s becoming! It was like someone flicked a switch, plunging us from unseasonably warm vest-top-in-November sort of weather into the (admittedly far more appropriate) biting winds and deepening chill that requires layers and hats and a brisk pace to escape its grasp.

But this post isn’t actually about the weather either. It’s just that the cold seems to be the common link between my favourite moments from this week.

One of which was the arrival of Arthur’s first ever pair of slippers. We have wooden floors in most of our house, so slippery socks are not really an option to keep Arthur’s toes warm. He wasn’t even walking this time last year so it wasn’t really an issue, but now with the hurtling up and down the corridors I needed to come up with something. And I found these.


They’re by Living Kitzbuhel, soft and cosy enough to be comfortable for hours of wear yet tough enough to stand up to the endless energy of a toddler. They certainly seem to be doing the job.


The other memorable moment from this week, when the three of us all wrapped up and ventured into the cold, was bonfire night. We went to see the fireworks at Sherwell Valley Primary School. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but we had a brilliant night. When we arrived, Arthur was enthralled by all the lights flashing in the darkness.


He was cosied up in the sling beneath our brilliant babywearing coat, and was very happy for a while to watch the gathering crowds from there. He did start to get a little bit restless, wondering I think why we were all standing around in the cold and the darkness, but fortunately the explosions of colour distracted him before too long.




It was a brilliant display – and whilst Arthur spent most of it looking more than a little bit shell shocked, he still hasn’t stopped talking about the fireworks.

We’ve had a couple of wintery walks as well, and I have to concede that there’s something rather lovely about the crisp, refreshing air that I may even have missed, just a little bit.


So bring it on winter – we’re ready for you!

The Reading Residence

Word of the week: trains


Over the past couple of weeks, Arthur has developed a real passion for his train set. He was given it for Christmas last year, and whilst he’s shown a passing interest before it’s only recently that he’s really given it his full attention. He’s figured out how to put the pieces of track together, and whilst he loves it when someone sits down and plays with him he’s equally happy to be given the time to play with his train tracks by himself.

And this week that’s been particularly handy.

After our whirlwind trip to London I’ve had so much to catch up on. Not least the novel, which is edging ever closer to completion though I’m not quite there yet.

Because this has also been one of those weeks when my time and focus has been stretched in all sorts of directions I hadn’t exactly been anticipating. Meet ups with friends that I didn’t want to refuse, for Arthur’s sake or mine, despite knowing it would knock my schedule out of whack. Taking over a local twitter account (@TorbayPeople) because no-one else stepped up to the mark. A piece I wrote a while ago being published in The Guardian, the excitement of which threw me a bit yesterday!

And then of course there’s Halloween, which seems to have appeared out of nowhere this year! So throw in some pumpkin carving, some baking, some costume making.

It’s all been good fun, but I have been squeezing every last drop out of every second to fit it in.

And for much of that time, when I’ve been writing or blogging or tweeting or making something or another, Arthur has sat contentedly and played with his trains. Now that it’s finally the weekend, I’m looking forward to sitting down and playing with him too.


The Reading Residence

Word of the Week: Yoga

For months now I’ve been wanting to work out how to incorporate yoga into our daily routine. Inspired by this post from  Vicki over at Honest Mum I sought out the 10 Minute Solutions Yoga DVD, but it has spent the summer mainly gathering dust as I’ve despaired at ever finding one minute for myself, let alone ten.

This week though I decided enough was enough: I mostly found peace with my post pregnancy body a while ago but the time has finally come when the mummy tummy has got to go. And my first step was to force myself to find the time for that daily yoga!

I’m pretty rubbish in the mornings, but having run our average day through my head a multitude of times before breakfast was the only fail-safe slot. The advantage of Arthur still being breastfed is that he’s never crazy hungry first thing, and I figured it might actually be quite a nice way for us both to start the day.

And it has! It’s been brilliant in fact, and once I’d put my mind to it really not too hard at all to slot in – we’re even up to twenty minutes a day now. Arthur’s been loving it, and will excitedly call out ‘Yoga! Yoga!’ whenever I start to get our mats out (Actually the way he says it sounds more like ‘Yoda’, which can’t help but make my inner Star Wars geek giggle).

That’s not been the only thing about our joint yoga practice that’s been amusing me either. Yesterday, having left early for music in the morning, we found some time in the afternoon – and I just had to get Leigh to document it.

Things generally start out simply enough, with us both on our own mats listening quietly to the instructor.

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But then as the session goes on Arthur’s approach tends to get increasingly interactive. He’s never been able to resist a back to climb on, and has decided that the downward dog provides the perfect ‘baby house’.

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It was my fear of these interruptions from the ever present toddler that had been one of my major excuses for not finding the time for yoga earlier. And frankly it is a far cry from the tranquil loft spaces I used to love to frequent for classes in London. But it’s most definitely not a good enough reason not to do yoga at all.

I think as he gets more used to it Arthur will become more keen to try to copy the poses himself – in a modified way of course, and especially if I dust off the yoga for toddlers book I bought and fit in some dedicated sessions for him too. It’s a great addition to our day together, and good to do something physical to counterbalance all the writing time.

I’ve found that it is really beginning to transform my days – I have more energy, less aches and pains, and am in a much more positive and proactive frame of mind. And whilst all that is reason enough to keep it going, I’m sure it won’t be long before I see it starting to transform my body too.


The Reading Residence


Word of the Week: Mess

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:


As it happens, this doesn’t actually refer to mess that was made, but rather mess that wasn’t. In fact mess that I think I’ve been a little afraid of making, a fear I might have inadvertently passed on to Arthur. It is the glorious, creative, colourful mess that comes from painting: something I’ve avoided doing with Arthur for far too long.

It’s a little odd, really. Those that know me would certainly not put me in the category of people who are mess averse. I’ve never been one for minimalism, and have embraced all sorts of mess with Arthur so far: the avocado and porridge face packs that come with baby led weaning, the bathroom floor tsunamis in the name of watery fun, the muddy knees (and hands, and noses) of outdoor exploration. But for some reason, despite loving art in all it’s forms and being brought up by a supremely creative mother who facilitated endless projects, I have thus far shied away from adding paint to the list of things Arthur has been allowed to make a mess with.

And this week, I decided it was time that changed. I bit the bullet, got out the various supplies I’ve collected so far, and waited for Arthur to make a mess. Except he didn’t seem all that impressed. It didn’t help that the first thing he did was put the paint-laden brush in his mouth – those embittering agents really don’t taste all that great. I felt a bit guilty for setting him up in his high chair at the spot at the table where he normally eats… Confusing much?

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He seemed vaguely interested in the brushes and stamps I’d been recommended by a friend, but admittedly more in the different sounds they made when he banged them on the table than in what would happen if he put them in contact with the gloopy stuff.


And he was considerably less impressed when I gave him a helping hand to coat his fingers in said gloopy stuff, appearing to get positively afraid of what it might do as our little art session went on.

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I tried my best to model the messiness, sacrificing any attempt at artistic merit for the sake of lots of smooshing and smearing and slapping. But he really wasn’t having any of it, and in the end I had to admit defeat.



I’m a little mortified that my reticence to get out the paints for anything other than tightly controlled mummy-led crafts over the past fifteen months might have given Arthur a paint phobia. And for that reason alone I will most definitely be persevering. I’m thinking next time we should scrap the high chair, and just free things up with paper on the floor. I admit I’m cringing a little as I write that with thoughts of baby paint handprints over everything the minute my back is turned, but if that’s the sacrifice I have to make then so be it.

If all goes to plan, there should be plenty of messy, paint-splattered posts in the weeks and months to come. Wish us luck! It’ll be fun, right?


The Reading Residence

Word of the Week: Penguins

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:


There are many great things about living in Brixham. Getting to see the sea every day is just exhilarating, and especially when the sun is shining just stepping outside the front door can feel like going on holiday. But one of the best things about living in a tourist destination is how many cool things there are to do on our doorstep. And this week we decided to take advantage of one of my favourites.

Living Coasts is a zoo with a difference. It is full of all things watery – from octopuses to otters, from seals to sting rays. We took Arthur when he was smaller, and he was mesmerised watching the sea birds swimming underwater.


He’s getting much more aware of all the different creatures we share this planet with as he gets older though, so when a friend suggested a visit to Living Coasts this week I jumped at the chance.

We were particularly excited by the prospect of watching the newly-toddling Arthur waddling amongst the penguins, and he didn’t disappoint. In fact he quickly made friends with a 3 month old chick called Kevin.


He was pretty keen to go and join the rest of the penguins on their beach, but we just about managed to distract him.


Arthur was generally fascinated by the creatures he saw, especially when he could watch them interacting with humans. The spectacle of the otters being fed with a whistle and a ball on a stick could have kept him transfixed for hours.


It was definitely the penguins who excited Arthur the most though. We went back to see them having their lunch, and it was all I could do to hold him back as he pointed and shouted out with glee. If it hadn’t have been for the keepers’ warnings that they could nip I would have been tempted to let him go in for a cuddle…


Despite the lack of penguin cuddles it was a lovely afternoon, and it was a very happy and sleepy little boy who cuddled up to me in the sling for the journey back to Brixham.



The Reading Residence

Word of the Week: Relief

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:


Arthur had his final vaccinations in the seemingly never-ending first year cycle this week. Every time he’s had a jab, right from those very first ones when he was eight weeks old, he’s reacted badly. Not the extreme but very rare allergic reactions you read about thank goodness, but still enough to make all of our lives miserable in the aftermath.


These latest jabs seem to have had a particularly lengthy impact. He had his MMR at the beginning of January: after I voiced my concerns to the nurse about the reactions he’d had previously she suggested that I might like to ask for these ones to be split up, delaying the boosters until his system had a chance to recover from the live MMR vaccine.

I gratefully followed her advice – one of my main concerns has been about the effect of the combination of vaccines on his system  – and I’m glad I did. About a week after the MMR vaccine he developed a cold, which turned into croup (terrifying) for which he was prescribed a course of steroids, after which he developed vomiting and diarrhoea which resulted in him losing almost a kilo in weight. He had an on and off fever for about a month, and a niggling cough which still hasn’t quite gone away – and which has regularly made him retch and vomit over the past six weeks. On the basis that he had no actual fever we went back for the booster jabs this Monday (we’d already delayed them again once), and he then had 48 hours of feeling rotten with new cold symptoms and a fever. Through all of this he wouldn’t accept calpol – the smallest amount makes him vomit, something which is possibly our fault for trying to avoid it entirely in the early months – and was almost permanently attached to the boob.

I would still rather have all of these side effects than the potentially devastating effects of the illnesses he’s been vaccinated against – I am not for one second suggesting that I’d rather we’d skipped the vaccines. But I still can’t help feeling guilty for putting him through all of this – especially as with the most recent jabs he was fully aware of what was going on, pulling against me as we went into the nurses office.

I wish as well that I felt more able to speak openly about vaccination side effects without feeling like I’m promoting the anti-vaccination camp. Neither the nurse nor the doctor I saw whilst Arthur was suffering would really engage in conversation about his symptoms having anything to do with the jabs, even though the only times he’s been ill in his fourteen months have mysteriously coincided with vaccinations. I understand that they need to promote the vaccination programme, especially in the light of all of the damage done by Andrew Wakefield’s unfounded claims about the MMR vaccine. However I’m not sure a ‘one size fits all’ approach is appropriate – and as someone committed to vaccinating my child, I just wish I could have an intelligent conversation with a healthcare professional about my concerns.

Anyway. I’m not going to turn this into a rant. The whole vaccination trauma is over for us – at least for another couple of years – and what I’m left with now that Arthur seems to have recovered is an overwhelming sense of relief.

And on the plus side, this week’s feverish insomnia did bring with it some very cute middle of the night storytelling sessions. I’m strangely relieved to see that breastfeeding and books rather than calpol seem to be my baby’s medicine of choice!

fever stories

The Reading Residence